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On the Buses with Roamer

Using Roamer to Model a Mass Transport System

Everyone knows the saying, “You stand at the bus stop, waiting for ages, then three of them turn up at the same time.”   Why?  A mathematical model called queuing theory supplies an answer.  What is the mathematics used to design a mass transportation system?  That is what Year 10 students at the Kingsdale Foundation School, Southwark are about to find out.   As a STEM Ambassador I will run a five week mathematics enrichment programme starting on the 14th October.

Two activities exist which explore using Roamer to model and  test ideas relating to bus routes.  One of them was created by  the Nuffield Foundation as a design technology task for the Classic Roamer.  The other is the Valiant Activity Pack which presents the same problem as this activity.   The difference here is this project is for older students and the activity will focus on them making decisions based on real data they collect.  The activity presents students with a simple to understand problem – design and model a bus system.  It also presents an authentic set of problems and challenges they must overcome.  In his book How to Solve It, The celebrated mathematician and educator George Polya offered a set of practical strategies for solving mathematical problems. It offered more than a set of mathematical techniques, it dealt with what it was like to think like a mathematician.

Often STEM Ambassadors are asked to visit schools and talk to students about their career and how useful STEM skills are.  Mass transportation is a real problem that is easily accessible to students and easily modelled with Roamer.  Our objective here is to replace talk with a real activity.

Teacher and Coordinator of the Gifted and Talented Programme, Edward Otieno said we have never done anything like this but are really excited about the prospect.

We plan to record our progress in a GO article and plan to produce other records that hopefully will show the richness of the projects potential.

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